x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood: Live from Madison Square Garden

It took a long time for this duo to team up after the near legendary Blind Faith but this album proves it is still worth the wait.

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The crowd whoops, the piano belts out a glissando and the drums and Hammond organ kick in to a rollicking rendition of JJ Cale's After Midnight. After a note-perfect but plodding start, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood are truly kicking on the second CD of this two-part live recording of their 2008 Madison Square Garden gig. It took a while but, like the reunion of these two giants of blues rock, it was worth the wait. Before 2007, Winwood and Clapton, though longtime friends, had collaborated for less than a year, releasing one album in 1969 as the supergroup Blind Faith (with Ginger Baker on drums and the late Ric Grech on bass). In that single album, though, they came up with some seriously good material, including the album's opener, Had to Cry Today, on which Winwood's rough-as-old-nails voice adds some grit to the impeccable Clapton guitar riff. This is an album packed with similarly superbly crafted songs from the late Sixties and early Seventies. The duo's version of Buddy Miles's Them Changes is punchy and pounding, giving some indication of the brilliance that is still to come on the next disc. And if anyone harboured doubts about the duo, they must surely be put to rest the moment Clapton's soaring guitar and Winwood's intense Hammond and voice come together a transcendent 12 minutes into a bluesy, 16-minute ramble through Hendrix's Voodoo Chile. Those old guys can rock.

* Gemma Champ